The issue of loneliness, in a romantic context, is not something I talk about publicly very often. It can easily take over my thoughts and become the only thing I talk about. It’s not what I want to be known for. But occasionally I do feel like there’s something I need to say, if not for my own benefit then for the defense of people who have been through the same things I have – because I know I’m not the only one. And since there is a common, very specific stance that the Church community tends to take on the subject, which I don’t entirely agree with, a blog post like this could turn out fruitless since it’s not likely to change minds. But if there’s something that needs to be said, it isn’t always for the purpose of getting people to agree with you; sometimes it’s for the sake of the few people out there who share your struggle, just to let them know that they’re not alone.
I have brought this issue before the elders of the Church community numerous times (elders in both age and office) and the prevalent response is “Get your relationship with God right first. If you have God then you don’t need a spouse. He will fulfill everything.” And for a long time I believed that was the answer – that somehow something was still missing between myself and God – that I wasn’t doing it right. And it made logical sense that the God of the universe would be able to fulfill my needs if I was in right standing with him. Why wouldn’t that make sense?
I had spent years trying to hone my relationship with God, and still am. (It is a good thing, by the way.) There are always greater depths and greater blessings to a closeness with God. Yet… Something was still missing. Is still missing. And I’ve had no small amount of spiritual turmoil trying to understand why it feels to me, inexplicably, that God is not enough.
The elders who have counseled me on this were not just spouting words. I know these guys – they are speaking from experience – just not my experience. The difference in perspective would probably be made clearer if we look at the fact that the older generations, in their time, married quite young, whereas the average age for marriage has been getting older and older in recent generations. So this is the order in which the older generation would have experienced things: Lonely => Fall in love => Fun, but not satisfied => Find God => Find Purpose => Satisfied. The conclusion then would be, “Life didn’t totally come together until I got serious about my walk with God, and therefore God is all you need.”
My generation, and maybe a few before, with getting married later in life have experienced things in a very different order, which goes like this: Lonely => Find God => Find Purpose, but something’s still missing => Fall in love => Life explosion => Satisfied. So our conclusion has been, “Finding God made sense out of everything. I know it’s the only relationship that matters, yet something was missing until I fell in love. Is something wrong with me?”
Part of the problem I had with figuring things out was that I had conflicted feelings, and was getting conflicting messages from Christian speakers, on how much of a priority Human Romance is to the Christian God. There are various Bible verses that you could look at individually and they would give very different messages on how important Romance is to God. But as with all apparent contradictions, I don’t choose some verses over others, but look at them all together and wrestle with them until they fit as a whole. And as I’ve often done when feeling lost about God’s plans, I went back to Genesis, with prayer, to try and get a sense of the first priorities, and hopefully put everything else in perspective.
This is where a glimpse of clarity finally came to me. Adam, in the beginning, was a perfect man – a perfect, sinless, unbroken man who lived in direct, perfect fellowship with God. There was no sin, there was no barrier, there was nothing at all hindering the relationship between Man and God. And yet… Something was missing. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said.
Alone? I thought the man was with God! And also surrounded by animals! How could he be alone? Creation is not “Good” again until after God creates Woman and brings her to the man. The woman made everything better. Why? Was God not good enough? Was Adam created with some flaw that makes him “need” something other than his great Provider?
God is fully capable of fulfilling all of our needs himself. He’s God. That’s the logical conclusion. But if all of reality were based on that single statement of logic then he would not have to give us food either, or air, or a planet to live on, because he would be all-sufficient. But God did not base the universe on that one statement of logic. He’s more creative than that. He wanted us to need other things as well – things which he provides – and in this way he is still the Provider.
God doesn’t fulfill our need for a physical companion, not because he lacks the power to do so, but because he wants us to need each other. It is better this way. He did not create Adam with a flaw that makes him need another person, God created him with a hunger. Which, like all hungers, is oh so sweet to satisfy.
Now, sometimes God does choose to fulfill this need himself, which I believe is what is referred to as the Gift or Calling of Celibacy. In this now-broken world with a lot of fixing to do, sometimes the plans that God has for someone doesn’t allow time for a romantic relationship, in which case God takes care of that need for fellowship himself. Does this mean that people with Celibacy are better than those without? No. I can think of some great leaders in the world who were married, and some that were not. It’s not a competition. I’ve taken tests to see if I have the gift of Celibacy – I do not. Far from it. So I’m still waiting for this longing to be fulfilled.
Is a relationship with Jesus Christ the most important relationship you can have? Yes. Absolutely. Is it the only one you need? Not by a long shot. Not unless you’re one of the few who has been given the calling of Celibacy. But for most of us, we are going to need both relationships.
What counsel is this for Christian folk who are still struggling with singleness? Not much. It hurts. It sucks. It’s supposed to. I’m no closer to being satisfied with the single life than I was when I started this search for answers. But at least now I know that there is a reason for this pain, that the pain is right, and that it’s not from some failure of spirituality on my part. That’s what I offer to my fellow, struggling singles – the pain is right.